The Fulbright TGC experience kicked off into high gear today as we participated in a pair of professional learning activities with one of our host teachers from Lima as well as Dr. Laura Balbuena, director of the Fulbright Commission in Peru. Each presentation offered its own insight into the Peruvian education system — foundational overview and in depth look of how racism and terror’s affects the system to this day.
The Peruvian system is harnessed with the power of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). This assessment is an integral component in students deciding their path beyond the traditional primary grades. In the midst of these challenges, Peruvians are seeking students to think more critically at higher levels while an inequity exists for female students as education is still viewed as more valuable for boys. Neither of these concepts are foreign to me as state assessments drive instructional practices, good and bad, and our female students are still underrepresented in certain U.S. fields of study (i.e., STEM related) because of stereotypes of females in education.
The most intriguing part of the morning session came in learning about the primary schooling. Each week there is 3-4 hours a dedicated personal developmenttime or as I interpret it as mental health needs or teaching the whole child. This is a time for relationship building, team building activities, and honest reflections to meet their personal needs. Mental health is a personal concern of mine for students. As the world is rapidly changing with social media and different home structures, students need that social and emotional guidance from a trusted adult (teacher and parent) more than ever. In the U.S., we are still working our way through the muddy water on how to offer these services to our students as is the same for the Peruvian education system.
In our afternoon visit to the Fulbright Commission, we unraveled the privileges that exist and its affect on racism through the years dating back to the Shining Pathpolitical group. The leader Abimael Guzman articulated knowing the written word is powerful and those without the power are easily manipulated. This example was portrayed in many indigenous communities — those without much government presence in rural communities in Peru. Personally, the death of believing in expertise and not striving for knowledge as I have observed in many U.S. classrooms makes us naive to the inter workings of the world around us. As novelist Novelist Chimamanda Adichie articulates in her TedTalk, it leaves us in a dangerous position of a Single Story.
Learning to think critically by evaluating a position for its merits, synthesizing multiple sources, and creating a sound judgement should be a goal in every teacher’s classroom for his or her students. Whether your are in Peru or the U.S., teachers are struggling with the concept. I think of the examples of the Shining Path regime’s tactics to recruit children through its higher education initiative or its work with indigenous communities who were often illiterate and lacked sound education.
If a person lacks a solid educational background, they receive a limited pallet of opportunities in their lives and can easily be taken down the wrong path. In my U.S. teaching experience, lower level students are much more likely to be manipulated into taking low paying jobs (legal and illegal) compared to their highly educated counterpart. It strikes me as no surprise many indigenous communities lacked libraries for its citizens; lack of books mean a lack of knowledge available.
It saddens me to have no libraries available for these young people, but it also excites me as an opportunity to support literacy. Besides the books I already brought, maybe it is time for the Free Little Library Initiative to go international. My local literacy association already stocks and supports libraries in our communities, why not support our international community of readers.
This blog post is not an official U.S.Department of State blog. The views and information presented are the grantee’s own and do not represent the Teachers for Global Classrooms Program, IREX, or the U.S. Department of State. This blog is a reflection of the personal accounts and observations of my time spent abroad while interacting with other cultures and people.